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Payment cards: Now the card speaks!

Articles | By B-Id | 16 November 2015
Card manufacturer advances additional features such as fingerprint, flexible e-paper displays or acoustic communications. Electronics and chip manufacturers require smaller components. Card manufacturer advances additional features such as fingerprint, flexible e-paper displays or acoustic communications. Electronics and chip manufacturers require smaller components.

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The next generation of the ISO card: acoustic cards as an alternative to NFC increase the security level of mobile payment applications

The next generation of payment cards provides a range of new functionalities by integrating electronic components into the ISO Format. There are fingerprint cards without a battery, with flexible PCB card designs, e-paper displays with Dot-matrix, and batteries that recharge via NFC. Technically, these are all viable options, as Yiwen Jin, B-Id explains. With partners, the company is working simultaneously on several innovative developments and projects. Acoustic cards, the next evolution of payment cards, are already in the starting blocks. The card interacts with the smartphone using an integrated speaker and microphone and offers - as an alternative to NFC - the high-security communication feature of a smart card for mobile payment applications.

Yiwen Jin, CEO, B-Id, interviewed by „RFID im Blick“

In the future, a card will be able to perform a lot more. „To integrate a variety of electronic components in the card media, however, is highly complex, especially as the ISO format has a limited size for electronic components such as a fingerprint sensor,“ explains Yiwen Jin, CEO, B-Id. Technically, there are many viable options which are ready for mass production.

Fingerprint cards soon with an alternative energy supply

In practical use, fingerprint cards - whether with a contact chip and / or contactless chip - are already a secure identification means for money transactions or for access control. The principal advantage of the fingerprint sensor card is: there is no PIN entry and up to six fingerprints can be stored on it. B-Id provides fingerprint cards with and without a battery and already has developed alternatives. Yiwen Jin, CEO, B-Id explains: „In order to read and store the fingerprint on contactless cards, the power of an NFC reader, for example, is sufficient. There are applications however, for example when money is withdrawn at the ATM, where additional power is needed to check the fingerprint before moving the card into the slot. B-Id has found an alternative energy source for contactless cards and already produces the first cards with this alternative new component,” says Jin without revealing any additional details.

Fast loading of “Store Value Cards” for public transport

The best example is store value cards (SVC) with displays that show the current balance and are used as prepaid cards for public transport ticketing. „Contactless SVC cards in HF frequency range draw their energy from the reading field of the RFID reader. When quickly passing through an entrance gate to a bus or train, the contactless payment process, which includes updating the display, may not be completed fast enough. The alternative energy source can resolve the problem by ensuring fast loading,“ explains Yiwen Jin. Therefore, B-ID has taken the next development step and is now capable of producing display SVC cards with and without a power source.

E-paper can completely replace flexible LEDs

Further progress has been achieved in the field of display technology. In recent years, applying display cards (one key and 13 keys) with flexible LCDs has failed because of the LCD quality. “Many cards are defective after less than a year in operation. That is why well known manufacturers of flexible LCDs have withdrawn from the display-card business. The Dot Matrix e-paper displays now offer a new approach which completely replace LCD displays,” says the CEO. Dot Matrix not only displays numbers, but also letters and characters. This is technically no longer a vision, because matching display driver ICs should be available in the foreseeable future. Chip manufacturers are developing new chips which can be integrated into the ISO-card format by the end of the year, according to Jin.

Acoustic cards for secure mobile payment

Another innovation has come from the development department of B-Id: acoustic cards used in combination with mobile phones that can be a safer alternative to NFC cards. “Acoustic communication has a high level of security, comparable to biometric fingerprints. So, the technology is predestined for mobile payment applications” explains Yiwen Jin. The main elements of the cards are a security chip, a microphone and a speaker. Using the acoustic signal, the card can communicate in both directions to the mobile device and triggers the authentication process: the phone sends the acoustic signal to the card, the microphone in the card receives the signal and the security chip demodulates the signal for further use. The security chip then sends the modulated information to the speaker of the card, which sends the signal to the microphone of the mobile phone. “The second generation card has been completed for the ISO standard that already includes an NFC interface. There are plans to integrate Bluetooth in a further step. To make this viable, however, the components must be even smaller,” says the expert.

There are still obstacles to integrate Bluetooth

The industry has already made progress in reducing the size of the components. “In two years’ time, the obstacles to develop thin batteries for ISO cards will be overcome. Manufacturers have already improved fingerprint sensor technology, so our cards can work with every sensor and algorithm now. A similar technological rethink is now needed in regards to Bluetooth, originally designed only for the mobile market. Another challenge is to connect the flexible PCBs by means of fasteners, according to Jin: “The wire bonding technology used in classical chip manufacturing is causing production waste as well as in the application afterwards. In the future, for more reliable bonding, we will count on chipon- flex (COF) - welding technology used by the semiconductor industry, which is characterised by high thermal stability.“

The objective by the end of 2015: a multi-function card for loyalty, payment and access

The next project the company is managing is the development of a multifunction card that combines all these features on one card. The display card in ISO format is supposed to have Bluetooth and NFC interfaces, a wireless rechargeable battery that is charged for mobile phone applications by an RFID / NFC interface, as well as - and this is the highlight - a “Dot Matrix” e-paper touchscreen. The advantage of this touch screen: applications such as loyalty or payment can be accessed by turning the individual pages. The “Dot Matrix” e-paper touchscreen is still being tested. If these tests are successful, suitable Driver ICs will be available by the end of the year, an objective that is within reach.

One card instead of many - payment markets are USA, China and Japan

“Payment applications are the driver to integrate further innovations for more safety and comfort on the card, in paticular for interaction with smartphones. Leading markets for payment applications are still the US, China and Japan,” explains the CEO. B-Id is involved in a highvolume project initiated by Union Pay, the credit card organisation in the People’s Republic of China that issues contactless credit cards (Quick Pass). Currently, the organisation is testing the functionalities of a one-keydisplay card, which is currently in the production qualification phase. In addition to the request, to bring more functionality to an ISO card, the trend is towards fewer cards at the same time. B-Id has been able to replace many debit, credit and loyalty cards with a cash card, storing the card data on a portable device. Mass production has already started, as Yiwen Jin reports.

Last modified on Monday, 16 November 2015 10:12
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